Posted February 2015

If you have a Civil War item that you can't identify or something you want to know the value of, contact John (mail: Box 510, Acworth, GA 30101; email John at with Civil War in the subject line or call 770-329-4984 or 770-974-6495). John needs a good description of the item, condition, manufacturer's marks and any other markings, and photos. Please Note: All questions MUST be accompanied with a Photo, it should not be more than 200k in file size.

Dear Mr. Sexton, the following items are presented for appraisal and have been amassed over the years, from 1970s to the present. We are looking for an honest appraisal in two groups: (1) Civil War bullets, and (2) Civil War buttons. These items are presented in their entirety as a group and not individually, and we are seeking an appraisal based on that.

JS: Civil War small arms projectiles are exceptionally diverse in the types that were used. There are several fine reference books that list hundreds of different variations of these lead projectiles, from .28 caliber up to .71 caliber, and there are others.

Your projectiles all appear excavated with white lead oxide. Most are common examples that you can find sold by specialty dealers for several dollars each. The Whitworth projectile, however, is a rare and popular sharpshooter’s bullet for use in a Whitworth rifle. Excavated specimens are most common in the Atlanta Campaign, most being found at the Battle of Rocky Face near Dalton, Ga. The battle took place early in the spring of 1864. There are excellent accounts of the great accuracy of this approximately 1 ounce, .44 caliber projectile where many were shot from the top of Rocky Face into Union works at the base of the mountain. The unsuspecting U.S. officers could not believe the accuracy at over half a mile. This particular projectile in similar, unfired condition can be found for about $200.

Your buttons are mostly Civil War Era, though several were manufactured after the war. Backmarks and styles tell us dates, as do reference books. Postwar military buttons have very little value.

You have two Kentucky Military Institute (KMI) buttons. The first button is post war and sells for about $10. The second KMI button, which is excavated but not rare as many of these have been found on the grounds of the institution, is still offered in similar condition for about $150.

Republic of Texas Navy button, $1,500-$2,000.

Alabama Volunteer Corps
button, $500.

Unfired Whitworth
bullet, $200.

The Alabama Volunteer Corps (AVC) button can be found for about $500. The Mississippi Infantry (Mississippi "I") button is quite rare, as it is a Confederate local; although, this example has a replaced shank, and in detail, it is a little weak. Similar buttons would probably sell between $500 and $600.

The excavated North Carolina Military Academy (Hornet's Nest) button with good dug patina and gilt can probably be found for around $300. The Confederate Artillery (script A) button is not actually Civil War and has little value, whereas an original Script "A" button can sell for more than $1,000.

The rarest button in this grouping is the Republic of Texas Navy button which could be found priced at $1,500-$2,000.

It's interesting that Confederate buttons were more collected with much higher values years ago. The button market has cooled considerably. A fine collection of Confederate buttons was offered in auction at Bonham's in San Francisco, and many did not sell, even with reasonable presale estimates and reserves. For those interested, Bonham's has an easy website to check prices on these buttons. The auction date was November 10, 2014 and the button lots were 1214-1291.

I found two Civil War-era photos and wanted to see if you could provide any information. The first is a soldier. It isn’t a reflective surface, tintype perhaps? The second one is a reflective surface, only viewable at a certain angle, making me think it is a daguerreotype. The gentleman in both photos appears to be the same person or a same-family member, maybe? These were found together while cleaning an old shotgun house here in Charleston, S.C. Any information, CSA or Union, rank, etc. would be greatly appreciated. Also, I don’t have any attachment to these; I’m looking to ballpark price them.

JS: You are correct in that the civilian photograph is indeed a daguerreotype (among the earliest form of photography, where the image is on a piece of silver-plated copper). I can't tell from your photographs of the soldier whether it is an ambrotype (on glass) or ferrotype, commonly known as a tintype. Both images are sixth plates, and both appear in good condition.

Tintype of a soldier with a rare
Colt Dragoon revolver, $400-$500.

Daguerreotype of possibly the same soldier with
family members, $100 if sold with the tintype.

Typically, Civil War soldier photographs of this genre sell from about $100 and up, depending on content. This particular soldier is holding his cavalry saber, and a Colt Dragoon revolver and wearing a regulation US cavalry shell jacket. Images of armed soldiers are much more desirable, and it's most unusual to see a Colt Dragoon revolver in a Civil War image as these weapons are scarce. They were replaced with the newer Army revolvers model 1860 Colt or new model Army Remington's. The clear well centered, massive Colt Dragoon in the image is the selling point, and this image should sell for about $400-$500.

The daguerreotype, because it is of same individual (with his family), may add $100 or so to the group price of the two photos.

John Sexton is an independent appraiser and expert of Civil War memorabilia. He is an accredited member of various appraiser organizations. He can be contacted at 770-329-4984 or If you have a Civil War item for him to appraise, email a photo and a description to .




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